Despite rave reviews across the board, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has ended up one of the most divisive entries in the franchise, if not the most divisive. This is a game that puts both Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4 to shame when it comes to fan backlash. That said, time was kind to those games (the former more so,) so it’s possible time will be kind to MGSV as well.
If nothing else, fans seem to be coming around to Venom Snake, Big Boss’ literal body double and the game’s actual protagonist. While Venom is yet another clone of Big Boss, the fact that he had an entire life before becoming a clone makes him a far more interesting character as a result. In many respects, he’s The Phantom Pain’s silver lining.
10 The Big Boss To Surpass Big Boss
Venom Snake isn’t just a Big Boss clone, in many respects he’s the better Big Boss. He’s the one who builds up Diamond Dogs, he’s the one who ultimately builds up Outer Heaven, and he’s the one who faces off against Solid Snake at the end of the first game. In fact, Venom makes Big Boss’ legacy tricky to pinpoint.
It seems that while Venom was setting up the events that would kick off the entire series, Big Boss was just getting Zanzibarland ready for Metal Gear 2 and little else. It’s not even clear if the real Big Boss trained Snake or not. It’s entirely possible that the Big Boss Snake trained under was Venom all along.
9 The Demon Points System
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is pretty good when it comes to explaining its core concepts and mechanics, but there’s one little detail that’s obscured in the shadows: the Demon Point system. In-game, Venom is meant to represent Big Boss’ more demonic tendencies, not necessarily evil, but inherently not good.
By doing villainous deeds, Venom Snake’s horn can actually grow. It’s possible to end the game with a jarringly long horn. The Demon Point system also coats Venom Snake in thick, red blood, showing how vengeful he’s become over time. It’s an interesting mechanic that’s made all the more unique by being hidden in the background.
8 The Kinder Big Boss
All that said, while Venom Snake has a literal Demon Point system that shows players how terrible he is, he’s significantly kinder and more composed than Big Boss. If nothing else, he isn’t nearly as jaded as Big Boss seems to become. Venom dearly cares for his soldiers, to the point where they seem to be the only thing he cares about.
He also has severe PTSD over what happened with Paz, not because he’s Big Boss, but because he was the medic who watched her die. It’s a subtle detail that serves as a reminder that Venom Snake is not entirely Big Boss. He has his own personality, his own demons, and his own morals.
7 Venom Is The Best Soldier In Peace Walker
One of the more unique games in the franchise, Peace Walker not only removed the series’ standard “Tactical Espionage Action” moniker, it allowed players to control every single soldier in Big Boss’ army. Interestingly, it’s very strongly implied that Venom Snake is meant to be whoever the player’s best soldier was in Peace Walker.
It’s important to remember that Ground Zeroes is a direct sequel to Peace Walker, meaning that all the present soldiers are a part of MSF, Venom’s original self no different. While he’s technically a medic, there’s nothing that indicates he wasn’t also a regular soldier. Big Boss cared about him enough to bring him along to save Paz, after all.
6 Punished Snake Versus Venom Snake
Early on in The Phantom Pain’s development, Venom Snake was rather curiously called “Punished Snake.” It wasn’t until later in development that Hideo Kojima ultimately chose to take the character’s name in a different direction. While it does seem like a minor detail to fix, it actually speaks volumes to Venom’s character.
As “Punished” Snake, the implication is that the character’s sins have caught up to him. He’s being punished for everything he did. But this character isn’t Big Boss, so what is there to punish? As “Venom” Snake, it’s clear that the character is just the result of Big Boss’ venom continually infecting the lives around him.
5 Kojima’s Love Letter To The Fans
Above all else, Venom Snake is Hideo Kojima’s way of celebrating the fans. “I’m Big Boss… and you are too” isn’t Big Boss talking directly to Venom, it’s Hideo Kojima speaking directly to the player. After years of following Big Boss’ story, Kojima takes Metal Gear one step further by creating Big Boss in the hands of the player.
Venom Snake becomes Kojima’s love letter to the fans, one that embraces the idea of controlling another being— something exclusive to the video game medium. Venom Snake is a celebration of all things Metal Gear and all things video game related.
4 Raiden’s Antithesis
Of course, Venom Snake being analogous to the player isn’t actually as uplifting a message as it might seem. In fact, it’s actually fairly critical on a whole. After all, none of Venom’s or Big Boss’ atrocities would have been committed had players simply not picked up the controller. In this respect, Venom becomes Raiden’s foil.
Where Venom Snake embraces the fact that he’s being controlled, Raiden literally rips away the player’s control at the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, embracing his own identity and rejecting the player outright. He forges his own path no matter the cost while Venom is content just being another player in Metal Gear’s story.
3 Venom Doesn’t Care Who He Was
Another way in which Venom Snake directly parallels Raiden is the fact that Venom does not care about his past whatsoever. Where Raiden is consumed by his “Jack the Ripper” persona, even heavily relapsing into it, Venom Snake barely acknowledges the fact that he was the medic all along. Right now, he’s Big Boss and that’s all that matters.
He isn’t even the least bit upset when he finds out that he’s not Big Boss. If anything, he seems happy to know that there’s another Big Boss he can count on. After all, they’re the only two men who truly understand one another. In Venom’s eyes, he always was and will always be Big Boss.
2 Venom’s Been Around Since Day 1
Metal Gear is no stranger when it comes to retcons, each game retconning the last. Even Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake retcons a larger role for Gray Fox in the previous title. Most interestingly, the biggest retcon in the series comes from The Phantom Pain, and it’s actually two retcons at that!
Originally, Solid Snake killed Big Boss at Outer Heaven, but it was retconned that he survived. Come The Phantom Pain, however, and it turns out that Big Boss never came because Snake actually killed Venom, not Big Boss. With that in mind, this means that Venom Snake has had a presence in the franchise since its very first installment.
1 Venom Is The First Snake To Die
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Venom Snake is the first Snake to die in the series. Worse yet, he’s the only Snake to be killed by another Snake. Liquid dies due to FoxDie, Solidus is killed by Raiden, old age gets Big Boss, and Solid Snake dies due to accelerated aging, albeit presumably peacefully.
The only Snake who was straight up forced against his nature to be a clone of Big Boss, it’s actually quite tragic how Venom meets his end. He lives as he died: in Big Boss’ shadow. No one ever learns who Venom was or that Big Boss had a double all along. Snake simply believes that Big Boss somehow survived.